Why Is Language Important?
Lay the proper foundation for the school year by asking this one essential question.
By Matthew Spinogatti
Why is language important? Or better yet, why is such a complicated language important? Having the biological ability to speak is not necessarily justification for creating a language that allows us to share complex thought, feelings, and emotions. Anthropologists would argue that language was initially created in an effort to organize hunting expeditions. Sociologists would look at our overwhelming desire to communicate and a romantic poet at our desire to express love and longing. Regardless of how we came to possess such a strong and influential tool, we are now a species that yields an intricate and well-established form of communication.
And how is this communication being used? I sometimes wonder if poets and philosophers stare down from the heavens with their jaws agape and watch as we text in broken fragments of language that only express rudimentary understanding of human existence and emotional expression. I then have to pause and remind myself that language is fluid and prone to change. This does not mean that I believe “YOLO” is an expression that should remain in our cultural dictionary, but it is important to be flexible.
Get Them Involved
So as the new school year begins, I propose we all ask our students, “Why is language important to you?” With the increase in technology and social media, this generation is communicating at a rate that far exceeds any previous generations. Our job as educators is to help them to wield this tool that our species has created. It is important to remember that language is complicated. We have factors such as tone, mood, volume, inflection, sarcasm, double-meanings, etc. to consider.
Lessons and Activities to Get Things Going
Every teacher wants to start the school year off strong with an attention-grabbing set of lessons. Incorporate some of these activities to get students involved and thinking about the way language is currently being used in our society and how it may differ from previous time periods.
- Media. Find two different newscasters reporting on the same issue. After the first is viewed, have the learners write down what the information reported was and how it was reported. Then, show the second clip. Have them discuss similarities and differences in tone, mood, and presentation. Most importantly, ask them if the delivery affected the information being delivered.
- Presidential and Political Speeches. Understanding political jargon and manipulation of language is an essential aspect of being a responsible member of society. Show presidential speeches or debates and have students analyze what is being said, and how the information is delivered. Are the orators attempting to persuade, comfort, incite, or celebrate?
- Comedians. Who doesn’t love a good stand-up comic or gut-busting joke? A stand-up comic is a master of language manipulation and something that learners of all ages will truly enjoy. Ask them why the joke was funny. How were ideas expressed or language utilized to elicit a reaction from the viewer?
Language Is Studied at Every Grade Level
Our students study language at every grade level. It is perhaps the most deeply rooted aspect of their education. Do you believe they understand why? Have you ever asked them? Perhaps this year you can introduce an examination of why our species has created this tool and how our current society uses it.
What do you think? Share your thoughts with the Lesson Planet Community.